Specter irked by uncooperative Pats, league in Spygate probe
Frustrated at the obstacles confronting his investigation of "Spygate," Sen. Arlen Specter accused the New England Patriots of "stonewalling" on Friday and suggested the NFL might never get around to questioning key witness Matt Walsh, a former Patriots video assistant.
Specter's comments are in stark contrast to remarks on Wednesday from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who told reporters that the NFL was moving toward an agreement that would allow Walsh to tell what he knows about the Patriots' spying practices without fear of being sued.
AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari/Getty Images
Sen. Arlen Specter says he would like to be present if the NFL ever questions Matt Walsh, a former Patriots video assistant.
Walsh, employed by the Patriots from 1996 to 2003, has suggested that he has information, perhaps even materials, about the Patriots' video practices that could be potentially damaging.
His attorney, Michael Levy, forwarded a proposal to the NFL's outside counsel seeking full indemnification for Walsh on Feb. 14. Levy, as well as Specter, maintained that the league's initial proposal failed to protect Walsh against the possibility of being sued, and said it also required that he turn over any materials or evidence.
"They haven't taken the steps to get Walsh to come forward," Specter said. "They have the key."
Late Friday afternoon, NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said the league respectfully disagrees with Specter.
"We have offered Mr. Walsh's attorney assurances that are fully responsive to his concerns," Aiello said. "And we have not heard back from him. ... We very much want to speak to [Walsh]."
As of Friday night, however, the league and Walsh's attorney had not reached an agreement.An attorney for the Patriots told ESPN.com that Walsh did not have a confidentiality agreement with the franchise or anything else that might prevent his cooperation. Specter painted a much starker, more contentious picture than the one presented by the league and the Patriots. He said both the Patriots and New York Jets have refused to cooperate with his investigation.
That it is somewhere between absurd to insulting that they won't let us talk to the witnesses.
-- Sen. Arlen Specter,
on the Patriots' responses
to his investigators
"My staff has been stonewalled on that," Specter said.
After his staff made phone contact with some individuals connected to the team, Specter said they were referred to the Patriots' outside legal counsel, who rejected a request for cooperation. Daniel L. Goldberg, who represents the Patriots and also the Boston Red Sox, said that in all cases, the individuals had been previously interviewed at least once -- and in some instances twice -- by the league.
Goldberg refused to identify those individuals.
"Sen. Specter's office had called me as counsel to the Patriots to ask to interview several Patriots employees," said Goldberg, attorney with the Boston firm of Bingham and McCutchen. "I was told that the inquiry was with respect to signal-taping. And as I explained to the Senator's office, we regard this as a league matter. As such, we have fully cooperated with the league's investigation."
Asked to respond to Specter's accusation that the Patriots have stonewalled his requests for information, Goldberg said, "You look at it from our perspective. Who is the right forum for an inquiry into a matter like this? We regard this as a league matter. It deals with league rules, league enforcement."
But Specter, a one-time district attorney in Philadelphia, didn't react favorably to the Patriots' responses to his investigators.
"Well, I think that it is somewhere between absurd to insulting that they won't let us talk to the witnesses," Specter said. "Whoever heard of not being able to talk to someone because it is hearsay back from somebody else who talked to them. You have to question hearsay and reliability. I'm not prepared to accept what somebody else says these key witnesses say. What kind of an inquiry would it be if we accepted what somebody else tells us what was said?"
Our clients have not spoken to the senator or his staff and at this time have no plans to do so.
-- Jets outside legal counsel
Commissioner Roger Goodell fined Bill Belichick $500,000 -- the biggest fine ever for an NFL coach -- and the team $250,000 after determining New England violated league rules by videotaping defensive signals from Jets coaches in the teams' regular-season opener. The Patriots also will have to forfeit their first-round draft choice in the 2008 draft.
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